INTERVIEW WITH MUHAMMAD YAHYA WALIULLAH, FORMER SECRETARY IT DEPARTMENT, GOVERNMENT OF SINDH

KHALIL AHMED
(feedback@pgeconomist.com)
Nov 22 - 28, 20
10

Mr. Muhammad Yahya Waliullah is currently Associate Professor and Director IT & Statistical Bureau in Sir Syed University of Engineering & Technology (SSUET) in Karachi. Prior to joining SSUET, he was a career civil servant with posting as secretary, planning & development department, government of Sindh. Prior to that he had several senior level postings in government of Sindh as secretary IT department, woman development department. For a brief period, he was director general, provincial ombudsman secretariat, and executive district officer (it) in Karachi district government.

Mr. Waliullah has worked for over six years as director, "Center on Integrated Rural Development for Asia Pacific (CIRDAP)" a UN / FAO affiliated Center, with headquarter in Dhaka, Bangladesh. His assignments there took him to around sixteen countries in Asia Pacific for directing human resource and training projects.

Mr. Waliullah holds a master's degree from University of Karachi, another master's from London School of Economics, University of London. He has received specialised trainings in Tokyo, Japan, UK, US Department of Labor, Washington D.C. and Boston, USA. He has widely traveled around the world and represented Pakistan in number of international forums. He teaches at many academic and professional institutions.

Mr. Waliullah is a fellow of Royal Statistical Society and fellow of Asian Statistical Institute and former Vice President of Population Association of Pakistan.

PAGE: PLEASE TELL US SOMETHING ABOUT SOFTWARE EXPORT FROM PAKISTAN.

MUHAMMAD YAHYA WALIULLAH: Software exports from Pakistan are picking up. However, its rate is very slow for number of reasons. First is image of Pakistan in the world. Second is presence of very powerful neighbor that has invested in education and training over the last fifty years and now cashing its dividend. Third is networking of professionals and communities, although sizeable number of Pakistanis lives in western countries but their education status and competence does not match with our neighboring country's professional and communities living abroad. Further, Pakistani professionals and community are divided into groups. Our neighboring country has a powerful linkages and advanced networking that does not only help them in IT and ITes exports but obtaining in sizeable chunk of outsourcing from western countries.

PAGE: HOW COULD WE COMPETE WITH OUR NEIGHBORING COUNTRIES IN THE FIELD OF IT?

MUHAMMAD YAHYA WALIULLAH: Competition requires knowledge and competence in global market. The only way Pakistan can compete with neighboring countries is to invest heavily in quality education and training, improving its global image that are basic source of IT exports. In recent past, there has been mushroom growth in number of academic institutions awarding degrees in private sector. Many say that it is most profitable business in Pakistan keeping in view current economic scenario. Both government and private sector will have to play key role in boosting IT exports. In our neighboring country, private sector has played dominating role in development, growth of IT & ITes sector and earning foreign exchange that is dominating export market. Government there has taken back seat and is playing role of facilitator and enabler.

PAGE: WHAT IS YOUR OPINION ABOUT IMPORT AND EXPORT OF SOFTWARE TO AND FROM PAKISTAN?

MUHAMMAD YAHYA WALIULLAH: Pakistan is paying huge foreign exchange for import of software and hardware then earning foreign exchange in exports. Major foreign IT & ITes companies are dominating. These companies hire limited staff for marketing of their products. None have invested in improving knowledge and skills of Pakistani professionals, technical and support centre to provide expertise to locals, unlike our neighboring country where their investments run over several billion dollars. They are also primary source of hiring professionals within country and for overseas market there. These companies are net earners of foreign exchange from Pakistan.

PAGE: YOUR VIEWS ABOUT PIRACY IN PAKISTAN.

MUHAMMAD YAHYA WALIULLAH: Pakistan has overcome to a great extent problem of piracy in business, financial industry and corporate sector and their processes are running on licencesed software. However, for household sector the licensing fees is too high; most Pakistanis cannot afford to pay license fees for non-commercial use. This problem is not only unique with Pakistan but also common around globe. Even major countries in our neighbor are following such practice. Pakistan alone cannot be blamed for violating piracy laws. Those blaming Pakistan should also compare size of market and number of computer user as compared to our neighboring countries.

PAGE: WHAT INCENTIVES DO YOU NEED FROM THE GOVERNMENT OF PAKISTAN?

MUHAMMAD YAHYA WALIULLAH: Government policies affect every sector and whole economy and plays role of facilitator, enabler, and regulator. In order to boost IT & ITes sector government, as one thinks, needs to devise strategy to look both internal and external factors. IT ministry both in federal and provincial government will have to set up, "Think Tank" for its effective functioning, need to be de-politicised, manned by top-level professionals. A thorough review is required for institutions working under ministry, like PTA, PTCL, and NTC. A supporting mechanism is evolved for professional bodies like Pasha, CSP and their recommendations may be given weight. There is also a need to look at what is being taught at academic institutions. Can we compete in global market with the education being imparted now?